The Indian Ayurvedic medicine is one of the most popular streams among alternative medicines in the global market. Along with Chinese medicines, it has the potential of dominating the worldwide demand for herbal medicine. Yet, we are far from this goal. While experts predict a highly robust demand for herbal medicines emerging in the next few years, the Indian industry still has a long way to go.
When it comes to herbal products, many luxury companies have a firm foundation. However, Chinese firms have also created a significant presence. Fortunately, the Indian industry too is gaining space. In fact, in the last few years Ayurvedic medicine manufacturers have made a focused approach towards creating more demand, improving channels of delivery and the standards in manufacturing.
Challenges Facing Ayurvedic medicine manufacturers
The Ayurvedic medicine manufacturers have faced considerable odds to get this far. While Ayurveda has never quite disappeared, it was taken over by the more aggressively marketed branded and generic drugs. So much so that it became ‘alternative’ medicine in the land of its approach, while other drugs are seen as conventional medicines.
However, followers of Ayurveda are still many in India. In rural sector particularly, Ayurveda has always been the preferred form of treatment with almost 80% people preferring it over other means. But the increasing presence of hospitals have, ironically, lowered this number. This is because doctors in such hospitals rarely practice Ayurveda.
It is important to note here that Ayurveda should not be seen as a competitor of conventional medicine. Rather, it is another component of ensuring a healthy population. Some of the challenges that Ayurveda faces in India and globally are:
Unreliable standards in manufacturing: In the global industry the adherence to standards in ingredients and processes is extremely important. However, the problem with Ayurveda is two pronged. First, for some Ayurvedic medicine manufacturers, it is difficult to quantify the process of making Ayurvedic medicine. Secondly, given pollution and pesticide use in India, it is difficult to assure the standards in ingredients. Moreover, since this is not a lab-made project, one batch of formulation was often found different from another batch.
Absence of Ayurveda in formal education: At one time India followed a complete Ayurvedic tradition. But, modern medical science developed completely parallel to this and had no connection or interaction with Ayurveda. As a result, Ayurveda or its principles do not form part of the formal medical education.
So, you will be hard pressed to find an Ayurvedic doctor in a hospital. Since this is the primary means of spreading medical treatment across a population, the lack of representation meant that Ayurveda lost out.
Aggressive marketing by conventional drug companies: Coupled with the rise of modern medical science was the rise of pharmaceutical companies. Slowly, the tablets and capsules because the only kind of drugs sold at chemists. Today, as huge multi-million dollar conglomerates their marketing prowess is unparalleled and almost impossible for Ayurvedic medicine manufacturers to counter effectively.
Lack of understanding: In the West, there is little understanding or even knowledge of Ayurveda. This ancient system of well being is seen as a strictly ‘alternative’ medicine. The lack of standardization also means that it has acquired the ignominious tag of ‘pseudo-medicine’. This means it is severely crippled when fighting against the spread of modern medicine and is rarely understood by modern medical practitioners.
Presence of heavy metals: Ayurveda advocates the use of herbs, plant extracts and minerals in making its formulations. However, many of these also contain some amount of heavy metals. Due to lack of awareness about the effect of such metals, many early manufacturers used these in their formulations. This invited swift penalty from countries like the US. While many Ayurvedic practitioners counter that such presence was due to incorrect manufacturing processes or faulty ingredient, the harm to Ayurvedic medicine’s reputation was struck.
Few practitioners: Ayurveda is an ancient form of treatment and well-being. It is a vast text that covered simple everyday skincare regime to complicated surgical procedures like plastic surgery and cataract. Coupled with the its absence in formal education, there are very few practitioners left today with a complete knowledge of Ayurveda. This has also meant fewer competent practitioners who could explain any lacunae.
Ayurveda is one of India’s traditional medicines and considered as one of our great inheritances. But to survive and become a dominant player in the global medicine market, Ayurvedic medicine manufacturers have to overcome some formidable challenges.